Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Amy Winehouse 1983-2011

I'm still grieving the death of Amy Winehouse. I was shaken to the core when I heard the news last Saturday.

I first heard her voice around Christmas time 2006 when I heard "You Know I'm No Good" and I thought, "wow pretty cool." But no hook. Then later the following summer, when most of America did, with "Rehab" on constant rotation on the radio. Still no hook.

Then, the next summer, I heard my friend's Frank CD, and the intro track "Stronger than Me" had me instantly hooked.

Her emotional rawness, her wit, her vocal strength and breathtaking vocal arrangement had me in her grips. I was obsessed since.

That summer, I downloaded (almost) everything Winehouse, and by far "You Sent Me Flying" was my favorite.

It spoke to the fragility of both unrequited love and youth in a way that no one had ever really dealt with. When I think about it, beyond her amazing voice, what I loved was her songwriting talent. Principally, I loved that she decided to write songs in a way that no one else really wrote. Her instrumentation breezed along as her perfectly poetic lyrics about imperfection and observation drove her songs. Finding out later that she mainly wrote the words and vocal arrangements and was assisted with the hip-hop and later soul-based beats, reinforced the fact that Amy's voice (both vocally and lyrically) was the highlight of every song.

Many of her devoted fans believe that her Frank LP was better than her more popular Back to Black LP. And to some degree, I agree with that opinion. I didn't really appreciate Amy until after hearing most of Frank. It may be because Frank relied on a more raw sentiment, with songs like "Fuck Me Pumps" running the show, and gritty hip-hop beats (like using the instrumentation in "Made You Look") cementing this feeling. With Back to Black, Amy was geared towards a more polished, old-time path.

In an interview she stated that she loved the drama of 60s motown. In Back to Black she used the motown model not just in instrumentation and vocal arrangement, but also, in a way, her lyrics. Her songs more succinctly employed her characteristic wit and fragility into a melodic pop-based manner. While palpably less raw in form, in content Amy still shined through with songs like "Just Friends"-

Overall, its hard to say I have a favorite Amy song, and if I could, I would post every song I knew to remember her. In fact, to even attempt to tribute her, in a blog post, or any other means, is quite difficult. But that proves a testament to her and the pricelessness of her work in her short period of time.

Ever since I heard "Stronger than Me" I wanted her to be well, I wanted her to put out more work and I wanted to see her live one day. But for the past few years that never happened, and each headline about her seemed more helpless than the last. I know that many people will remember her for her public fall. But for me, I always have and always will remember her for the joy her music gave me. And I guess death for her, while it may not make her more famous or make her songs sound different, will provide her the peace she looked for in her life.

Many people have commented on the "27" club of incredibly talented musicians who died (under presumably the same circumstances as her, via drugs) at the age of 27, including Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison. It now includes her.

M.I.A. posted a song on SoundCloud called "27" the day after Amy's passing.

On twitter, she wrote: "i recorded this song b4 vickileekx but never put it out. its an unfinished demo...R.I.P.A.M.Y" (To date, I think it is one of M.I.A.'s best songs). And where words fail to properly pay tribute, I think such a beautiful song pays homage to a beautiful voice.

27 by _M_I_A_

Saturday, July 16, 2011

No One's Gonna Love You...

No One's Gonna Love You-Cee-Lo Green

I've loved Cee-Lo pre-"Fuck You" and even pre-Gnarls Barkley. He had me at his first single "Closet Freak." Last fall I downloaded The Lady Killer LP and to be honest was not super enthused with it upon first (or second listen). But as time goes on and songs have played on my shuffle, more and more I fall in love with the artistry behind the songs (even if the lyrics aren't as tastey as his prior two solo LPs or Gnarls Barkley LPs). And "No One's Gonna Love You" becomes more of a standout. On a summer afternoon drive, the crispy feel of the production, the faded melodic vocals, the strength of his longer notes grouped with his already rich voice create this audibly tangible feel of the fragility of him singing this song. If I were a song, I'd hope to be this, cracked and beautiful. The antithesis on the emphasis of production being slickly polished.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

New Santigold

"People want my power and they want my station"

Go-Santigold ft. Karen O

Words couldn't even describe how excited I was to discover that Santigold was putting out new music later this year.

Her eponymous solo debut that dropped 3 summers ago was like audible magical gold. It really shook me because it combined dancehall and 80s new wave with a splendidly well-executed experimental power and at the same time acknowledging her punk past. Such songs like "Unstoppable" placed this LP in constant rotation for a good 18 months for me-

"Go" seems to accomplish the impossible feat of topping this previous LP with a more electric, melodic, polished and afro-punk feeling and it is very exciting that at least this first glimpse suggests that there is no sophomore slump for this amazing (L.E.S.) artiste(s).

I am also GEEKED that one of my other female vocalists, Karen O., is featured. Doesn't her voice in the bridge sound absolutely electric?
I have feeling that her piece was inspired by such songs like "Dragon Queen", which like most of her oeuvre with Yeah Yeah Yeahs (especially in "It's Blitz") sounds like a powerful current channeled from an iridescent vocal diamond.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Anomie Bell

If you want to massage your ears with some grumbling bass under the soothing husky voice of a sexy woman, this is a decent place to begin.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Washed Out NPR Full Album Stream

John Mayer, and most people listening to music post 1975, predicted that in the future most of the music we would listen to would predominately come from machines.

Well the future is here.

Washed Out is an artist near and dear to my heart, for introducing Chillwave, but also for doing an excellently skillful and futuristic job of intergrating voice and beat and machine. It didn't even occur to me,  though, that he had yet to release a full length album; his EPs being satisfying onto themselves.

But not only has SubPop snatched him up (score), but NPR (the prior target practice of Republican deficit reduction) has graciously provided a full album stream of the album that officially drops next Tuesday July 12th.

You can listen here:

But here are some notables:



You and I (the effects and ending to this is just angelic)-

Upon listening to this stream I got a markedly more polished feel to this LP than the endearingly bombastic previous songs. But as I listened further along, I did not feel less joy. Instead (as the cover art may suggest), the previous works were the awesome first few getting-to-know-you dates. The LP is when he puts the moves on us and makes passionate love to our ears.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Digging in the mines of my memory

"And I got a little money where the safe is. For my babies's babies's babies. Babies, babies, babies. Babies, babies, baby!"

There was a prolific period of my career as a music fan when I had to listen to every song Lil Wayne rap recorded post Tha Carter I

This was one of them-

"He's Fred, I'm Barney, welcome to bedrock. Rock? Rock. Yep, rock. Then I get's to rollin'"

Around hearing "Gettin It" I became a little obsessed with the Cool Kids, and had to hear everything they did (a quest that was well worth it).

Among the memorable discoveries-